Overland Adventure- Tanzania

The marvels of the great migration

Many people dream of exploring the Serengeti and witnessing the Great Migration. It is, however, a privilege few will ever have. CHARMAINE and DAVE CAIRNCROSS share their experience on a self-drive adventure to one of the most magical places on earth.

We knew from experience that any trip with Simon and Des Steadman from Ultimate Adventures would be a special one. Thus, we had no hesitation in signing up to join a group of fellow travellers on a bucket-list adventure to Tanzania to witness the spectacle that is the Great Migration.

The plan was to fly to Tanzania and rent fully equipped 4×4 vehicles, which allowed more time in the Serengeti with the advantage of still having a self-drive experience. The self-drive, in my opinion, is a must as it allows you the freedom to experience this awesome place by yourself, but under the exceptional guidance of the Ultimate Adventures team. Information shared and guidance given were spot on and we were well informed from day one!

Getting there

We were booked on two Ethiopian Airlines flight from OR Tambo International Airport – first to Addis Ababa and then on to Kilimanjaro. From there we boarded a bus to a lodge in Arusha, where we were to spend our first night. It was a trip of around 80km, but the rules of the road appeared to be more of a suggestion than a law and our 60 minutes en route were rather hair-raising! Fortunately our bus driver seemed to be au fait with the local driving style and masterfully wove through the numerous small motorcycles and public modes of transport.

The vehicles we were to use were from one of the few rental companies in Tanzania and were well equipped and well suited for our purpose. Rooftop tents, bedding, fridges, gas stoves and many other items were supplied as part of the deal. The pop-up roofs were a bonus and much enjoyed by all as they made our

game viewing extra special.

For us as first-time rooftop tent users the experience was interesting, but after a few tries we managed to reduce our ‘pitching’ time from 20 minutes to around five! I must admit, though, that I have been completely cured of my plan to equip our own vehicle with a rooftop tent.

Let the fun begin!

Our tour included two nights in Arusha (first and last), two nights at the Ngorongoro Crater, six nights in the Serengeti, and one night at Lake Nero on our way back to Arusha.

Our journey started at the Ngorongoro Crater, a large, unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera. As we drove up towards it, we were greeted by beautiful trees as far as the eye could see. We stopped at the viewpoint to view the crater from above and it took our breath away. Indescribable beauty!

Camping on the rim of ‘Africa’s Eden’, literally in the clouds, was indeed a unique experience. Simon and Des had also arranged a very interesting visit with one of the local Masai people which afforded us the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about their lifestyle. Very informative indeed.

The visit to the crater is an absolute must when you visit Tanzania. Although we were on a self-drive expedition, we decided to make use of local tour guides and game viewing vehicles to explore the area. This turned out to be a wise choice as the guides delivered on every single one of our sighting requests. We were extremely fortunate to see lions, elephants, rhino’s, hyenas, gazelles and a plethora of bird species!

The migration in all its glory

From Ngorongoro Crater we drove to the Serengeti and again we were not disappointed. With its widespread savannahs, hills, mountains and of course the acacia trees to be seen all over the landscape, it provided the perfect background to the wildebeest migration. The name Serengeti is derived from the Masai word siringet, which loosely translates into ‘endless plains’ – and this is exactly what it is.

We had the privilege of witnessing the start of the Great Migration, truly one of the most awe-inspiring natural events we have ever seen. Zebras grazed in the taller grass fields, followed by masses of wildebeest feasting on the shortened grass.

This is where the pop-up roof of the vehicle came in particularly handy and it is hard to describe the thrill of being able to take in the vast plains, the wildebeest and the sound from our higher vantage point. There are no words to accurately describe the thudding of their hooves and the grunting as they start running across the plains… goosebump stuff, I tell you!

Of course, the Serengeti also supports a rich predator population, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas. We went from one spectacular sighting to the next and while we had expected to see predators, we were completely taken aback by their sheer numbers.

Living in South Africa we are used to looking for lions on the ground, but in the Serengeti, we saw lions not only climbing but also sleeping in trees. They would stand up on the branches when any wildlife passed by, and we were sure that sooner or later we would witness one of them jumping out of a tree to catch its prey. This never happened though, but we did come across a few kills and of course the hyenas and vultures would be around, scavenging for whatever leftovers they could.

We had the most amazing experience of seeing a leopard eating a wildebeest in a tree. The leopard was exhausted after the kill and had a bit of a snooze before enjoying the meal. With a full stomach, it hid the carcass and settled among the branches to continue its nap.

Apart from elephants, black rhino’s, buffaloes, tsessebes, gazelles and many more splendid animal species, we also saw a great abundance of birdlife. This included everything from fish eagles to ostriches and at times we literally didn’t know where to look. Some members of our group members used the opportunity to see the Serengeti plains from a hot air balloon and couldn’t stop raving about the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Every sunset was more spectacular than the previous and our hearts were filled with immense gratitude for the opportunity to experience the majesty of it all. The Serengeti will most certainly be the subject of countless future discussions around our campfires!

Time to head back

On our way back to Arusha we stopped over at Lake Natron, a salt or alkaline lake located in the northern Ngorongoro district. It is the only regular breeding area for Africa’s lesser flamingos but is not protected and thus under threat from planned development projects.

On a guided walk along the edges of the lake we also spotted Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano which is worshipped by most of the local Masai people. Unlike most other volcanoes, it has erupted with natrocarbonatite, an unusual, cold and highly fluid type of magma. The most recent eruptions occurred in 2007 and 2008.

We stayed over at a campsite that is owned and run by the local Masai leaders and we were most impressed by how well set up and maintained it is. There is a natural spring, giving the campsite an oasis-like feel and the excellent location allowed a great view of the lake and surrounding area.

The forging of friendships

Many people have the Serengeti on their bucket list, just as we did. We were not disappointed. Ultimate Adventures’ Simon and Des Steadman where not only experts in navigating the vast plains but also have an in-depth understanding of the migration patterns, animal behaviour, as well the best advantage points to witness this extraordinary event. Their knowledge and expertise were invaluable in ensuring that we had the most memorable and enriching experience possible.

And of course, we have to mention Master P who prepared the most delicious meals, for us to enjoy. Who else can say that they have tasted the best milk tart ever… made right there in the Serengeti? The food was of the highest standard and the inches gained around our waistlines were well worth it!

The group that we had the privilege to share this ultimate adventure with was remarkable, and with very diverse interests our campfire discussions were certainly never dull. We’d arrived as strangers but departed as friends. The trip exceeded our wildest expectations and will remain imprinted on our memories forever. Asante, Tanzania – until we meet again…!

Choose your Ultimate Adventure

Run by the husband-and-wife team of Simon and Desiree Steadman, Ultimate Adventures offers a range of tours and self-drive adventures, designed to create amazing memories.

Prestige Tours: Aimed at adventurers who enjoy the finer things in life, guests can look forward to a bit more luxury and comfort whilst travelling in an intimate group. These tours are limited to four vehicles and the qualified bush chef will spoil guests with mouth-watering breakfasts and dinners every day. Accommodation is a mixture of camping and lodges or guesthouses. The Serengeti trip falls within this category (although it does involve a lot of wild camping).

Adventure Tours: Tailor-made for off-road adventurers who are after a true bush experience, camping in Africa’s wildest destinations. Limited to a maximum of 10 guests per vehicle and open to children of all ages, the team’s hospitality includes expert guides and a bush dinner cooked by a qualified bush chef every night.

Self-catered Adventure Tours: Offering the same attention to detail and carefully planned itineraries as the Adventure Tours, guests will be responsible for all their own meals on these tours. You will, however, be greeted by a cozy campfire every night when you return to camp – ready to cook dinner and share your adventures.

CONTACT: +27 84 447 4666 |

simon@ultimateadventures.tv |


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